14 Leaders Share Their Insights: Measuring the Effectiveness of Your Employer Brand
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A compelling employer brand can give your organisation an invaluable edge in the war for talent – of that there’s no doubt. But simply investing in employer branding activities doesn’t guarantee meaningful impact.
To get EB right – to find the unique formula that works for your organisation and resonates with your key talent segments – is a journey of testing and learning. So what should you be tracking to measure and improve your employer branding ROI? We asked 13 EB leaders to share their thoughts.
The biggest thorn is to not to measure ROI but to communicate efficiency in our results in a way that is simple and impactful to the business.It is an ongoing and iterative journey identifying what success means to our leaders.
So far our employer branding initiatives have helped our Talent Acquisition team and Employee Experience program drive higher engagement across the company at a global level.
Instead of defining “generic KPIs”, we create a living dashboard to guide us in making strategic decisions that we can tailor for each leader. We usually start with a template to better understand our audience (internal clients) and provide insights so that we can get the buy-in to invest in the right employer branding initiatives.
Attracting the right candidates:
Retention and engagement:
Impact of our business initiatives (based on specific business segment KPIs):
The mix of employer branding activities we use are so wide ranging, as they’re targeting talent who are at all stages of the consideration journey. Journeys are not linear, and are through a number of different touchpoints – both online and offline.
In an ideal world, we could track this journey and how people progress through the funnel as a result of our actions, however our Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) which is where the conversion and outcome data is kept – can’t be integrated with the previous sources of data. This means we can’t easily measure important things like lead volumes and quality, which is the information we need to assess how successful the upstream activities have been.
Every ATS or CRM system is different – some better and worse in their ability to track this very very valuable information. Have your digital partners work with you to set up as much tracking across your platforms as possible. Push your ATS provider to help provide a solution within their environment.
My measurement framework uses a mix of ‘leading indicators’ and ‘success metrics’. ‘Leading indicators’ measure the actual activity and help us understand how effective it is i.e. the number of social impressions or cost per click (CPC). This way we can monitor and optimise to get better ROI.
When it comes to measuring success, there are so many different data points we can use.
If our goal is to increase the attractiveness of our organisation as an employer, then this could be measured through what percentage increase we’ve had in the number of job searches performed, or in the average number of applications received per sourced role. Or if our goal is to increase awareness of our organisation, then we could use the number of new visitors to our careers website, or the total number of impressions of social content (sponsored and organic).
So to choose the right metrics, we need to put the data in context, by first determining clear employer marketing objectives, then relating them to meaningful metrics.
Although this is one of the most important metrics to measure in recruitment, it’s one of the most challenging. When recruitment teams aren’t successfully tracking this critical piece of data, it makes it very challenging for us in employer brand to know whether the quality of the leads we are generating are high enough.
Given that 4% of applicants across all industries are actually hired, it’s hard for us to know whether it’s because of poor candidate quality or just the fact that only one person gets hired per job requisition.
We need to look at metrics further back in the process to predict quality. Some of the metrics we can use are:
Then we can look at:
The tricky thing about measuring employer branding ROI is that each company and person does it differently. You can talk to plenty of people across the space and each person will have their own take on things. So you have to know what's key to your company and what success looks like for you.
Some of the KPIs that I track to measure employer branding success are:
I measure the quality of the candidates by how successful they are when progressing through our interview process. If we're branding correctly and attracting great candidates but repelling unqualified talent from a good source, our efforts are working with that source. However, if the candidates that we're receiving are not progressing in the process, we have a couple of issues going on:
We created our own scorecard to help us measure the impact of our employer brand efforts in real-time. We call it the “Brand Familiarity Index”, which is an aggregate of several different measures that help us understand if we are gaining the attention of new candidates, keeping their attention, and advancing them along our hiring paths and/or spreading our brand to others.
We bring in data from Google Analytics daily on our careers site that measures returning candidates, new candidates, those who sign up from our talent community, those who look at our jobs, and those who start and/or finish our applications.
We can see if they come from our specific campaigns on LinkedIn, from our sourcers and recruiters, or even from our own employees in the market spreading the word about working at Danaher.
Different activities and actions yield different scoring for our index, so we can balance the difference between, say, someone simply viewing a job versus someone applying for one. We call this our AIDA: Attention, Interest, Decision, and Action. Are we getting the Attention of the market? Are they Interested in our opportunities? Are they making Decisions about employment with us? And are they taking defined Actions to work for us?
We can also snapshot anything we’ve filtered. If we want to understand where we are, we can see how many points we have in our index at any given time and how that has changed from the previous month.
The trickiest part about measuring EB ROI is that there is no industry standard. When you measure talent acquisition you can fall back on time-to-hire, cost per hire etc. and we pretty much know what the industry standard is.
This is something we miss in employer branding, and it means that each one of us is creating and using different metrics without a real opportunity to benchmark.
As employer branding is about reputation management and marketing, we use some of the KPIs that our business uses.
Currently we are looking at the LinkedIn awareness and consideration survey to get a sense of how many people in our target group are aware of us as an employer (they all know our brands like Oreo, Cadbury and Nabisco, but not so much Mondelez).
Other KPIs are our social media following, unique and returning visitors to the career site, conversion rate of those visitors to job viewers, and job applicants. -
All branding ROI is hard (awareness/consideration) – especially when you compare it with marketing ROI (leads/candidate applications). The hard part is to explain how branding efforts build brand equity, and how to measure it.
You can always measure reach, impressions, engagement of your efforts – but the question is if it actually builds brand equity or not. Especially for employer branding, where you don’t want just anyone to consider you as an employer.
When looking at employer branding KPIs, it comes down to measuring both effort/tactics and impact throughout the recruitment funnel. Depending on what stage your brand is in, different metrics make sense.
From a brand awareness, familiarity, and consideration perspective, things like employer brand strength (vs competitors) can be good. You also need to survey the right potential candidates and find out what they think of you. For example, are you known for the right things or just known? Are there misperceptions? I like to measure the gap between internal reality vs external perception.
A big part of employer branding for me is also how recruitment marketing efforts pay off. If the brand is strong, you don’t need to work upper or mid-funnel for recruitment marketing, because you already have a good starting point. At this stage, you have good engagement on your marketing efforts and good applications.
This is a tricky one. With branding you want to be more proactive and build a talent pool before anyone needs to apply. From there, you want to measure whether that pool matches the type of talent you’re recruiting for. If it does, then you have quality candidates.
At the application stage, a candidate makes it to the second interview round, you have done a great job with attracting the right candidate.
The trickiest thing about measuring employer branding ROI isn’t the “what” to measure, but the “how”. The two KPIs that I care most about are:
Clearly these two indicators are influenced by a myriad of factors beyond the remit of the employer branding team, but they tell us whether Vodafone is hitting the mark in terms of delivering and communicating an experience and package that drives attraction, engagement and retention.
The obvious answer to the “how” is surveys, but “over-surveyed syndrome” is something we want to avoid, so I’ve been looking into existing surveys that we could leverage, like our consumer brand survey (probably a no-go), and our core employee survey already has a helpful referral indicator.
A further challenge is procuring data for all our target groups, so we can segment the findings and insights. LinkedIn Talent Insights go some way in supporting this but a bespoke survey or purchased report from one of the global insights suppliers is something I’m also considering. As we continue to explore options, I am leaning towards a dashboard approach, where we take a series of simple and sustainable measures, e.g. from Glassdoor, LinkedIn and internal surveys and referral activity to provide a series of measures, and an overall aggregate score that we can track.
Beyond that indicator score, there’s also the tricky challenge of procuring sustainable insights into how our EVP is perceived by different talent groups in different markets. There are a variety of local solutions in place to address that, but ultimately I’d like a global approach that empowers us to report back to the business on our performance in different areas of employee experience, and also that informs our employer branding and marketing efforts effectively. I’ll keep you posted on where we land!
I’ve also commissioned a range of measures to help us assess the impact of our recent employer brand and core brand refresh, and our new EVP. I’m comparing and contrasting metrics three months pre-launch and three months post-launch. These measures include sentiment analysis of social content relating to the new brand and EVP, and also changes in traffic/user behaviour and activities on our careers site. We’ve seen an uplift in the percentage of applications completed since the refresh, which suggests that the levels of engagement and commitment from candidates has increased as a result.
The trickiest thing about measuring employer branding ROI is that we’re often working across systems and platforms that are still only connected in very basic ways. The candidate journey isn’t a straight line from awareness to consideration to hire as much as it’s an imperfect winding path full of forks in the road. The important thing is to educate leadership within your company about the different ways employer branding efforts impact recruiting outcomes.
Engagement is the most important thing to measure. Are people engaging with the campaigns and content you’re creating? If not, you’ve got a problem and that problem is that your candidates aren’t interested in listening to what you have to say. It’s inefficient to have weak engagement.
Keep an eye on interview-to-hire ratio from various channels. Bringing lots of candidates into the funnel is only useful if those candidates are being converted to hires at a healthy rate. And, when you’re finding really efficient channels, increase investment there as long as the interview-to-hire ratio remains healthy.
In my opinion, one of the best metrics to measure your employer branding influence on the quality of candidates is applicant-to-hire ratio (A:H). How many CVs do you need to hire one candidate for a certain position? Well, the lower the better. The ideal ratio is one resume = one hire, meaning we attracted exactly the right qualified and interested candidate but that does not happen very often. Successful employer brand attracts exactly the right candidates and thus rejects others.
Measuring brand sentiment has and always will be a challenge. and I’ve tended to shy away from setting hard KPIs and metrics for brand-led activity for this reason! From a recruitment marketing point of view, my key measurements are all about the amount of applications we receive and the number of direct hires we place. If the numbers are strong in these areas, it means that we’re doing something right and our brand-led activity is breaking through.
About a year into my employment at CGI, I was keen to get an understanding of our employer brand perception from a starting point of when I joined to where we had come. In order to do this, I commissioned an external agency to undertake an audit of our brand, drawing from multiple online sources, to get that consolidated view of how we were being perceived and identify target areas for improvement or continued investment. What was pleasing to see was that there were marked improvements in our scores across the year – hopefully as a result of some of the employer branding activity I had introduced!
I think the best measurement of quality is increased retention. If people stay longer, it means that we’ve been successful in showcasing an authentic and true-to-life view of what it’s like to work for us in an environment in which they choose to stay. And if those employees start referring individuals from their own networks, that’s even better!
You have a number of factors to consider when developing an employer brand strategy and success metrics. Some examples include:
In order to tackle this all, you take it one step at a time. The first step is analysis to understand the value proposition, the strategy and candidate experience. Once you have this, you can build out the communications, content strategy, recruitment marketing, and much more as well as establish the right KPIs using the tools and resources available.
Using SAP SuccessFactors, we are able to measure "qualified candidates." And tracking codes are placed on all tactics/channels when available to see what is performing best.
We’re focused on delivering employer branding at scale and guiding key talent strategically to the roles. We measure that in terms of the number of candidates we target, attract, engage and convert into the pipeline. We then follow them throughout the candidate journey to track quality hires. This includes reach, sentiment, visits, uniques, engagements by channel (social, email, etc.), applications, interviews and so on.
Regarding diversity, we know it matters. It can increase ROI, lead to more innovative ideas, and foster a more productive work environment. And it has been proven that companies that place emphasis on diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above the industry median.
To me, I want to work for a company that focuses on diversity, inclusion and belonging, because it is the right thing to do. It’s about knowing what's right and embracing differences in multiple forms.
There will always be factors that come into play that are really hard to track and measure. For example, if an employee tells a friend about a role in their company, and the friend applies to the role normally vs being sent a referral link, then that word-of-mouth conversation wouldn’t be tracked.
There are many ways that talent can be influenced to join an organisation and it’s not always clear-cut and trackable. I think it’s important to have a mandatory question on the application form that allows applicants to state specifically what led them to apply to the role, and how they heard about it.
When it comes to content, I typically focus on engagement rates such as likes, comments and shares with respect to total views. Across other channels, it’s good to measure the time candidates spend on your careers site, bounce rates, highest and lowest-performing pages (and blogs) to understand what works on your site.
In the job application process, we measure the drop-off rate for completed applications. For candidate experience, surveys can help measure NPS for the overall experience candidates had during the application and interview process (even if they aren’t successful). Then of course it’s key to look at the total number of candidate applications alongside time to fill and cost to fill for each role.
This is more of a long-term measurement. For example, if there is a decrease in employee turnover, that typically means the right people were hired into the right roles. Looking at employee engagement and overall productivity are also strong indicators that you’ve hired quality talent. With respect to showing tangible employer brand metrics, this might come through in positive Glassdoor reviews as an example.
An employer brand is partially responsible for a huge array of positive indicators, benchmarks and data points across the talent experience and business performance. However, it is solely responsible for almost none of those indicators. Smart employer brand work will drive down application numbers and drive up conversions – but other factors will contribute to that.
An engaged workforce delivers more and therefore drives bottom-line growth, but no CFO is buying the idea that's the only reason profits go up. And rightly so. Distinctive and honest employer branding can help shift the dial on demographics, but only as part of a much wider, long-term effort. Employer branding cannot deliver greatness all by itself. I'm not sure that can be changed or tackled – it's probably best to adjust expectations instead.
I'm not sure you can decide on the KPIs you want to track and measure performance against before deciding on objectives. While it's good practice to invest in a distinctive and honest employer brand as a means of helping run a successful and growing business, it's better practice to tie that investment to some specific objectives. They can be employer brand objectives, but they should then ladder up (directly or indirectly) to the company strategy.
Once you are set on those objectives and the role the employer brand has to play, you can select the relevant KPIs with confidence. Driving down application numbers versus broadening the talent pool versus breaking into new markets and sectors will each carry very different KPIs. We select the KPI to demonstrate success based on the objective we have been tasked with delivering.
A straightforward metric to look at would be conversion ratios. If you're doing a good job for most organisations, you'd be reducing the total number of applications and improving the proportion of those applications that make it to interview and/or assessment. In simplistic terms, that at least indicates your activity is making strides in helping candidates make the right decision for them regarding an application – and typically the right decision for them is also the right decision for the employer.
An assessment of quality is far more complicated than that. The recruitment process is – in most cases – not especially useful for gauging potential. Commitment to an employer brand strategy is also a long-term commitment. Attracting more people with the right technical skills and personal motivations to do great work with you and thereby make fundamental impacts on how the business performs can only be observed over years, not months. Use conversion ratios to indicate you're travelling in the right direction but be prepared to wait years to generate the HR and financial data that demonstrate you've reached your desired destination.
The trickiest thing about measuring employer branding ROI is that there are so many different metrics one can measure. The key to great employer branding performance is being able to successfully measure your efforts and paint a clear picture of what’s working, what’s not working, and where/how you need to pivot.
I have found success by working with key stakeholders (TA, HR business partners, etc.) to agree on KPIs for all employer brand-related workstreams. These KPIs are specific to our different business objectives. Whether we're running a recruitment marketing campaign to drive quality applications for critical roles, sharing employee stories on our career site to improve candidate experience, or launching an internal engagement survey to measure employee satisfaction, we start by clearly defining what success looks like in terms of measurable metrics, and then track our efforts against them. I will not launch an employer brand workstream without doing this upfront work